EDITORIAL: Now, the work begins
Lots more land is coming off the county tax rolls as the City of Clinton prepares to develop its first recreation complex. That’s 176 acres that will not be available for taxation to run county operations.
Depending on how you look at it, that’s the bad news.
The good news is, once the complex is finished, and tournaments and programming are scheduled there, the city should attract more visitors.
That’s more hospitality money and that could spill over into the county coffers. The land will be annexed after it is bought, money spent there will go to city finances - money spent outside the venue or outside Clinton will go where it is spent. And if people attending Sunday events want to have a beer in a restaurant before they drive home, then they can do so in the unincorporated areas (not cities) because the voters approved that measure on Nov. 6.
So, the City of Clinton recreation complex effect for Laurens County will be less property tax revenue, more hospitality tax revenue. A pretty good deal considering the county isn’t investing a dime in Clinton’s recreation.
If the complex is brought on-line properly, it could have the added benefit of becoming a home-base for Dirt Devils baseball and softball and Little Devils tackle football. Home games by just those two organizations will bring visitors to Clinton from all over the state.
The work is just beginning, however.
City Council’s decision last Monday to buy land for recreation just starts the ball rolling. The rest of the accumulated hospitality and accommodations tax revenue - accumulated over the past decade from a tax base getting increasingly poorer in the years since textiles - will be spent on building a recreation complex. Once it’s built, somebody has to run it. If there are events scheduled there, somebody has to man the concession stands. All this labor starts from scratch - the City of Clinton has no recreation department or tradition of volunteerism in support of city-sponsored athletics.
We will have big open fields.
But will anyone play anything there?
To review, the Clinton City Council agreed Nov. 5 to pay $490,000 for 105 acres across the road from Dollar General at Hwy 56 and Springdale Drive, and acquire 69 more acres (at a cost of $4,200 per acre) adjoining the property. That gives us a blank canvas on a road that runs from uptown Clinton (actually from Lake Greenwood if you extend the route west) to I-26. A prime location - an easy exit from the interstate and, now with the “new” frontage road, access from two interstate intersections. There are motels nearby, one with land that will be much more valuable than the building that sits on it, and a selection of fast-food restaurants. Those are things people look for when they travel into towns for tournaments. The city’s challenge will be routing this money downtown.
The city has a conceptual drawing, produced apparently through a no-bid contract and, next, companies will be solicited to produce firm plans on building a recreation complex on this piece of land that now is under the city’s control. There will be enough land on this site to conduct a proper Scottish Games, if we want to do that. We can have an amphitheater and a small lake. And, we can keep Rhythm on the Rails in downtown Clinton because (thankfully) the new recreation site doesn’t have a railroad running through it.
The people who run and maintain this property will need an office and shed, so there will be space carved out of the property for that. Picnic shelters, walking trail and playground will round out the property. Perhaps, we could take on something no other rec area in the county has - a Veterans’ Hall of Heroes, or First Responders Memorial - and the tract might even position well as a trailhead for the Palmetto Trail and/or an extension of the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
Positioned where it is, the City of Clinton recreation complex is a short drive from Clinton High School - perhaps we could develop a “recreation corridor”. Multi-purpose football stadium? A tennis complex? A summertime “splash pad”?
Equestrian? Shakespeare in the Park? Now’s the time to dream, after all, as the work is just beginning.